This is the next post in a series discussing quiet title actions in Olympia or Tacoma Washington and surrounding areas. The previous article reviewed the types of issues that can necessitate quiet title actions. Title defects or competing ownership claims can impair a property sale and may negatively impact the value of the asset. If not handled appropriately, resolving these matters may take a significant time, effort, and money. Knowledgeable counsel with real estate experience can help property owners navigate the legal system and reach a satisfactory resolution. We will examine the importance of hiring a lawyer to assist you in more detail in this post. If you need assistance in a property law matter, contact my office to speak with an attorney.
As previously discussed, property owners must demonstrate that they are the rightful owners of real estate prior to conveying or transferring ownership to another. When you purchase real property, it is highly recommended, and likely required by a bank, that you engage a title company to review the seller’s chain of title. This can also be required when you try to develop bare land or when you are proposing changes in use or building new structures on the land. Title companies sometimes identify defects while examining the real estate records that could put into question the owner’s rights. These problems can range from technical problems, such as typos in the legal description, to bona fide disputes between one or more claimants to the ownership rights. In each of these situations, a quiet title action may be used to resolve the issues.
Quiet title actions are real lawsuits, whether curing a technical defect and unopposed or whether a true ownership challenge exists. Self-help can be an attractive option, particularly if a matter seems like a trivial problem or if the owner thinks the third party has a “bogus” claim. Handling these issues incorrectly, however, can be costly. A real estate attorney’s expertise can be useful in understanding the nature of the defect or challenge and how best to approach the situation in court.
Suppose, for example, a homeowner is selling his property and the title company uncovers several court filings by a neighbor for rights to an access easement across a portion of the property. The court has never issued an order granting the easement, but the neighbor has persistently filed actions with the court to preserve his claim. No official easement has ever been recorded; however, a clearly described property rights dispute exists. Suppose now that the property owner, incensed by his neighbor’s seemingly illegitimate claim, files a restraining order against the neighbor to prevent future court filings claiming property rights. A court would likely dismiss this request as the incorrect remedy for the homeowner. In the meantime, the potential buyer for the property terminates the purchase contract because he is unable to obtain title insurance, a requirement of his bank. Had the seller contacted an attorney after learning of the neighbor’s behavior, the lawyer could assist the owner by filing the right legal action (one for quiet title), possibly in time to save the sale. If successful, this may have nullified the neighbor’s claim and the owner could have proceeded with the sale of the property.
Attorneys who practice real property law can help you understand your rights when an ownership dispute or title defect occurs. Contact us today to speak to an Olympia real estate lawyer. Our firm also services the Thurston County cities of Lacey, Tumwater, and Yelm, the Pierce County cities of Tacoma, Puyallup, and Lakewood, the Lewis County cities of Centralia, and Chehalis, the King County cities of Seattle, Auburn, Bellevue, Burien, and Federal Way, as well as other areas in Washington, including Grays Harbor, Mason, Cowlitz, and Pacific Counties.